That would be Cardinal Francis Arinze, who on Saturday marked his 50th anniversary as a bishop—a milestone almost unheard of. He was ordained to the episcopacy in 1965, at the age of 32, becoming the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world. He spoke with Vatican Radio recently:
Although now retired and living in the Vatican, Cardinal Arinze is very much sought after and continues to travel, take on speaking engagements and he writes. He has just completed two books, one of which is about Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi. The Cardinal is also proud and very upbeat about the state of the Church in his country of origin, Nigeria. “How would you explain this faith (of the Nigerian Catholic Church)? The people believe; the clergy is motivated; the religious are quite a number and they serve the people; the lay people are wonderfully committed!” he exclaims. He puts it down to divine providence. At fifty years as a Bishop in the Catholic Church and as one of its Cardinals what are his sentiments today? “What comes to mind spontaneously is gratitude to God…also gratitude to all the people who have helped me along the way since I was ordained priest in 1958 and Bishop in 1965. No one is a priest or Bishop or Cardinal for himself. It is always for the Church, for others. It is they that we serve and it is with them that we move along. To all these people I remain grateful,” he says. If he were to name a secret to his illustrious apostolate, what would it be? “I don’t have a big secret in the sense of hidden but perhaps big, in the sense of Jesus Christ, himself, in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist,” Cardinal Arinze responds. The Cardinal says that it is the Lord Jesus principally in the Holy Mass that he celebrates every day who motivates him…but also Jesus Christ in, “in the tabernacle…Christ in the Holy Eucharist is my secret. Along with Christ is his (Jesus’) Blessed Mother, Mary, whom he gave us on the cross and who in turn gave us Christ on Christmas day,” he explains. Cardinal Arinze says that the resurrection and the presence of Christ, “with the Apostles between Ascension day and Pentecost –the first novena,” is a source of great consolation to him. It is a reassurance that Jesus continues to be with us, even to this day. Our Lord Jesus was with the Apostles, “on Pentecost day when the Church was made manifest to the world and was with the early Church after Pentecost. So, Jesus and Mary are my secret,“ he finally reveals.